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The Leibniz-IZW is an internationally renowned German research institute. It is part of the Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. and a member of the Leibniz Association. Our goal is to understand the adaptability of wildlife in the context of global change and to contribute to the enhancement of the survival of viable wildlife populations. For this purpose, we investigate the diversity of life histories, the mechanisms of evolutionary adaptations and their limits, including diseases, as well as the interrelations of wildlife with their environment and people. We use expertise from biology and veterinary medicine in an interdisciplinary approach to conduct fundamental and applied research – from the molecular to the landscape level – in close dialogue with the public and stakeholders. Additionally, we are committed to unique and high-quality services for the scientific community.

+++ Current information on African swine fever: The Leibniz-IZW conducts research on the population dynamics, on models of disease outbreaks in wild boars and on the ecology and human-wildlife interaction in urban areas. African swine fever is a reportable disease in domestic swine and therefor is the purview of the respective federal state laboratories and the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (Federal Research Institute for Animal Health) FLI. +++

News

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse on the Beato de Fernando I y doña Sancha dated 1047 AD (Apoc. VI, 1–8f. 135; shelf 14-2 National Library, Madrid;  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:B_Facundus_135.jpg
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse on the Beato de Fernando I y doña Sancha dated 1047 AD (Apoc. VI, 1–8f. 135; shelf 14-2 National Library, Madrid; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:B_Facundus_135.jpg

Human preferences for horse coat colours have changed greatly over time and across cultures. Spotted and diluted horses were more frequent from the beginning of domestication until the end of the Roman Empire, whereas solid colours (bay, black and chestnut) were predominant in the Middle Ages. These are the findings of an international research team under the direction of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW). The results have just been published in the open access journal “Scientific Reports”.

 

Herpesvirus particles. Photo: Walid Azab
Herpesvirus particles. Photo: Walid Azab

A new study challenges the tenet of herpes viruses being strictly host-specific. Scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) in Germany have discovered that gammaherpesviruses switch their hosts more frequently than previously thought. In fact, bats and primates appear to be responsible for the transfer of these viruses to other mammals in many cases. The findings were published in the scientific journal “mBio”.

Photo: Ralf Günther
Photo: Ralf Günther

Sabah-Rhino Project“ of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) was awarded as an official project of the UN-Decade for Biodiversity. This tribute is given to projects, which remarkably campaign for the preservation of biodiversity.

Photo: Rudis-Fotoseite.de & pixelio.de
Photo: Rudis-Fotoseite.de & pixelio.de

When animals choose their mates, how discriminate they are varies a great deal. For some male Mormon crickets, any female will do; in contrast, blue peahens rarely fall for the first cock courting them. Across nature, all kinds of situations seem to occur (albeit with different frequencies): indiscriminate males and females, only choosy females, only choosy males, very choosy everybody, as well as any situation in between. In a recent study, Alexandre Courtiol from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin (Germany) and his collaborators from the Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution in Montpellier (France) conclude that how choosy animals are is something that emerges predictably from the biology of each species and sex. This finding matters because—by impacting on who mixes their genes with whom—choosiness is a key factor shaping the biodiversity of species. This, in turn, has implications for conservation.

Photo: Milena Stillfried/IZW
Photo: Milena Stillfried/IZW

Berlin’s urban forests harbour isolated wild boar populations, whereas urban wild boars from built-up areas originate from neighbouring rural areas. This is the surprising result of a scientific study by the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW), the „Landeslabor Berlin Brandenburg“ and the Natural History Museum in Luxemburg which used techniques from molecular genetics to analyse the structure and origins of the wild boar populations. The study was part of a doctoral dissertation funded by the IZW and financially supported by National Geographic and the Foundation for Nature Conservation Berlin (“Stiftung Naturschutz Berlin”). The results are published in the scientific journal “Journal of Applied Ecology”.

Spotted hyenas in the Serengeti. Photo: Marion L East/IZW
Spotted hyenas in the Serengeti. Photo: Marion L East/IZW

Sapoviruses are an emerging group of viruses of the group of caliciviruses and well known agents of gastric enteritis, but very little is currently known about their role in wildlife ecology or the genetic strains that infect wildlife. Research findings by a group of scientists led by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) describe for the first time, sapovirus infection in African wild carnivores in the Serengeti ecosystem, including the spotted hyena, the African lion and the bat-eared fox. The results from two decades of monitoring revealed several sapovirus outbreaks of infection in spotted hyenas and, counter-intuitively, that the risk of infection declined as group sizes increased. These findings were published in the scientific magazine “PLOS ONE”.

Bat recorder and information flyer attached to a street lamp. The bat recorder automatically detects bats flying past and records their ultrasonic sounds. Photo: Daniel Lewanzik
Bat recorder and information flyer attached to a street lamp. The bat recorder automatically detects bats flying past and records their ultrasonic sounds. Photo: Daniel Lewanzik

The widespread replacement of conventional bulbs in street lighting by energy-saving light-emitting diodes (LEDs) has considerable influence on bats as urban nocturnal hunters. Opportunistic bats lose hunting opportunities whereas light sensitive species benefit. This was shown in a recent study by Christian Voigt and Daniel Lewanzik from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW).

Bandicota indica, Leopoldamys edwarsi, Maxomys surifer, Mus cookii, Rattus exulans, Rattus tanezumi (from left to right). Photos: Serge Morand/IZW
Bandicota indica, Leopoldamys edwarsi, Maxomys surifer, Mus cookii, Rattus exulans, Rattus tanezumi (from left to right). Photos: Serge Morand/IZW

The gibbon ape leukemia virus (GALV) is a medically important tool in cancer therapies. GALV is a retrovirus pathogenic to its host species, the southeast Asian lar gibbon (Hylobates lar) and thought to have originated from a cross-species transmission and may not originally be a primate virus at all. An international research team headed by the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) screened a wide range of rodents from southeast Asia for GALV-like sequences. The discovery of a new GALV in the grassland melomys (Melomys burtoni) from Indonesian New Guinea supports the hypothesis that this host species, and potentially related rodent lineages in Australia and Papua New Guinea, may have played a key role in the spread of GALV-like viruses. The findings were published in the scientific journal “Journal of Virology”.